LONDON, Nov 5 (Reuters) Many Liverpool fans approached this season saying the Premier League should be the team's top priority but a group-stage exit from the Champions League was probably not the pay-off they had in mind.
That, however, is the prospect facing the five-times European champions as they take on Besiktas in a must-win match tomorrow knowing that even if they win their remaining three Group A games they could still fail to get through.
The 2005 champions and last season's runners-up have just one point from three games, having drawn in Porto, lost at home to Marseille and gone down 2-1 in Istanbul two weeks ago.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is well aware of the danger but is refusing to look beyond Anfield on Tuesday.
''We can talk, talk, talk but I cannot change our current situation unless I prepare the team properly to win the first game and then try to go on from there,'' he told reporters.
''Am I surprised that we are in this situation? No. This is the Champions League and if you make one mistake you can be in trouble.'' Benitez described last month's 1-0 home defeat by Marseille, who lead the group with seven points, as one of the worst performances of his tenure but remains sure of his ability to turn things round.
''I think we have a better squad now and if we do the right things against Besiktas and win then we have confidence to go forward,'' said the Spaniard. ''It is a time to believe.'' FOURTH PLACE He will be without injured Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso and must surely turn to Peter Crouch up front.
The tall England striker has been out of favour for most of the season and has yet to score but in recent games he has looked sharp as a substitute -- not least in Saturday's goalless league draw at Blackburn Rovers where Dirk Kuyt was badly off beam.
Liverpool will expect to claim their first win of the group against a Besiktas side whose confidence was knocked by a 2-1 defeat in Saturday's derby against Fenerbahce.
The result left them in fourth place in the Turkish first division, behind their two main Istanbul rivals.
Saturday's match also left them without defender Gokhan Zan for tomorrow's trip after he was carried off with a leg strain.
Besiktas's main goal threat lies with Brazilian striker Bobo, the club's top scorer last season, who was on target on Saturday.
Last month's win over Liverpool was only Besiktas's sixth victory in 21 Champions League games and their first at home for four years.
They had already lost to Marseille and Porto this season.
''Our match against Liverpool will be very important in terms of our future in the Champions League,'' said coach Ertugrul Saglam after Saturday's loss.
''Now we have to focus on preparing for the battle in the week.
We will be going to England with the aim of getting a point to keep our hopes alive.'' REUTERS AB KN1123